Throwback Thursday: 2020 Christmas Letter

Image

A snapshot of my 2020…the “normal” parts at least.
I’ll elaborate on some of it in later posts.

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, this has been quite a year, hasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I am excited and slightly apprehensive to see the back side of it. I’m very ready for things to begin to be somewhat “normal” and more stable.  Yet, despite the upheaval and uncertainty of this past year, there has been good.

I have lived at my little place on the farm for a year now. I’ve been incredibly grateful for it, especially in light of all the “stay at home” time we’ve had. It was nice to have acres of outdoor space available to me during those times. As part of the remodelling of the outbuilding my home is attached to, my landlord created a private, paved patio area and a large storage closet for me. The patio turned out to be a real blessing. I was able to entertain friends and family on my patio in a “safe” manner over the summer. I was also able to try my hand at container gardening for the first time in about 15 years. I had some successes (zucchini and tomatoes) and failures (beans and cucumbers). My garden brought me much  joy. I learned a lot and am already planning my garden for next year. Now that the garden has wound down, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying birdwatching. I set up several feeders and regularly see sparrows, juncos, hummingbirds, chickadees, finches, towhees, jays, and a northern flicker. Ziva has been enjoying the added entertainment as well.  

Aside from a few new protocols, my job has been completely unaffected by the pandemic. I am very, very blessed in that regard. I still work for the same homecare agency. None of my patients or their families have been ill with COVID, thanks be to God. 

My health has also been good. This time last year, I sustained a minor injury to my right lower leg. It didn’t want to heal, so in January, I had a minor surgical procedure to open up and clean out what turned out to be a fairly severe, deep tissue injury. The next several months were filled with twice-weekly visits to a wound clinic to help heal the injury. As of August, it is fully healed. I have quite the scar from my ordeal, but I’m pleased that this was my only “health crisis” this year, especially in the light of the pandemic.I hope and pray that you are also well and that you are able to find Joy this holiday season despite it’s strangeness. Our celebrations might be different, but the one thing that remains the same is Emmanuel, God With Us, who’s birth we celebrate. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Now that is some “tidings of Comfort and Joy”!

Merry Christmas and a Brighter New Year!
Janet

In The Wee Hours: Second Christmas

Image

We’ve all heard the song, and most of us have probably sung it. “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I admit. I had no clue what that song was referring to all the time I was growing up. Twelve days? Which twelve days? I thought it referred to the twelve days before Christmas. It wasn’t until 2008 that I came to understand the deep beauty of the Twelve Days. My Second Christmas, as it were.
Let me tell you the story.

2008 was a particularly hard year for me. I was coming to grips with a deep personal loss I’d experienced two years prior, but hadn’t truly grieved. The loss itself is a story for another time. As the second anniversary of the loss drew closer, my grief began to build. I felt it coming like a slowly building tsunami, and in early September, it hit. It was hard. It was deep. And, despite the support of my family and friends, it was lonely. The Darkness (as I refer to that time) extended throughout the fall and into the Advent/Christmas season.

One thing you must know about me is that I dearly love the Christmas Season! I have always loved it. The decorations. The anticipation. The beauty. The Babe in a Manger. I love it all! That year, though, The Darkness hung like a murky blanket over everything. I couldn’t “get into” Christmas. I didn’t decorate. I might have sent out cards. I don’t remember. Probably not. I don’t think I even had an Advent Wreath, which I’d done without fail for 15 years or so by that point. I just didn’t have it in me. Grief is like that, sucking joy out of the things that bring the most joy.

On Christmas night, while driving home from my best friend’s house after spending Christmas with her and her family, I began to cry. Christmas was over, and I had missed it. I felt like I had slept through it and had just awoken to find it over. When I got home, I turned to a small group of online friends who had also been walking me through The Darkness. That’s when one of them said, “But Janet. Christmas isn’t over. It’s just begun. Haven’t you heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas?”
Wait. What?!
She went on to explain how the Twelve Days start with Christmas and end on Epiphany (well, actually the day before, I know). That I hadn’t really “missed” Christmas. That I could still celebrate. Right then, I took out my favorite Nativity set and wept as I put out the pieces. It was such a gift to be given. A Second Christmas of sorts.

Oh, but it gets better.

You see, in the Evangelical tradition, salvation is talked about as “asking Jesus into your heart.” I know other church traditions are different. For me, this occurred on Jan 6, 1985. My mom prayed with me and wrote the date in my childhood Bible. I’ve always known that date.

Did you notice it, though?
Jan 6th.
That’s Epiphany.

I did not make this connection until 2008. I didn’t know that Jan. 6 was even a religious date until I was an adult, and then I only knew that it was the day that the Magi coming to see Jesus was celebrated. I had only recently learned the name “Epiphany,” and had only just learned of it’s relation to Christmas and the Twelve Days. I had to learn more.

Webster’s defines Epiphany as: “a Christian feast day commemorating the revealing of Jesus as the Christ to the Gentiles.”

And that’s when God brought everything together for me.

The Magi from the East…. Gentiles…. kneeling before the Christ-child…. Recognizing Him as the king that He was/is….
1980+ years later…. 10 year-old me…. a Gentile… sitting in bed and recognizing Him as the Savior He is, and asking Him to be mine.

It was 2008, the year of The Darkness, when Christmas was so hard and I thought I had missed it, that I was “given” an entirely new Holiday to celebrate in a way that was deeply personal to me. It was so beautiful and so redemptive of such a dark time in my life.

I am so glad to be a part of a church now that celebrates Epiphany. Were it not for the Pandemic, we’d have a Twelfth Night Party. I was planning on making a traditional Twelfth Night Cake. Ah well, maybe next year.

Until then, Happy Epiphany, all!

Public Domain

In The Wee Hours: The Light Has Come

Image

Lux venit, lux venit
Lux venit sursum corda
Lux venit, Lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come

I love this refrain from Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album, sung by a boy choir. I love it even more since joining my little Anglican church. There is a part of our liturgy each week called “The Sursum Corda.” It goes like this:

Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

BCP, pg 132

At this point, we sing or recite the “Sanctus,” which is directly out of the book Revelations 4:8 and Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” It’s what the Seraphs and Beasts sing night and day around the Throne.

Every time we come to the Sursum Corda – every, every time – my heart thrills a little. It’s become my favorite part of the service. I think a lot of that has to do with a homily our late Father DJ gave on this part of the liturgy. I wish I could remember it exactly. I wish I could quote it for you. What I do remember is the gist. When we recite this part of the liturgy, and “lift our hearts” towards the Lord, we join that Great Cloud of Witnesses and all the Saints and Angels around the throne of God and around every altar in every church here on earth. We are united as one voice. There is a mystical, glorious unity that occurs. It’s an echo of Heaven, right here on earth. And I love it. So much. 

Lux venit.
The Light has come.
Sursum Corda.
Lift up your hearts.

Behold the Light of the World.
Oh come let us adore Him.